April 29, 2008

Nacogdoches County will fight TTC as new member of regional planning commission

Nacodoches Daily Sentinel
Copyright 2008

County commissioners reaffirmed their stance against the Trans-Texas Corridor, and they took another step toward keeping county government transparent when they met Tuesday.

First up on the court's agenda, commissioners heard a presentation by Connie Fogle on behalf of the newly formed Pineywoods Sub-Regional Planning Commission.

According to Fogle, the Texas Local Government Code, Chapter 391, requires state agencies to coordinate with local commissions to "ensure effective and orderly implementation of state programs at the regional level."

"Critical in the code is the word 'coordinate,'" she said. "This does not mean the commission has to cooperate. The intent is to put Sub-Regional Planning Commissions on equal-footing with state agencies."

The Pineywoods commission is against the TTC, but supports expansion of U.S. Hwy. 59 to Interstate status.

There are now four Sub-Regional Planning Commissions in Texas, but the law that allows the groups to exist and operate has been in existence for more than 10 years.

"It's really amazing that it's a forgotten law," Fogle said to the commissioners. "We are inviting you to join us.

"You have to realize that our governor, Rick Perry, is determined, although I don't quite understand his reasoning at this point, to push this transportation system down our throats without giving us a say-so in this," she added. "Now, they will have to come and sit across the table from us and address our concerns — that's the whole purpose of the commission."

When Fogle asked the commissioners if they had any questions, Precinct 2 Commissioner Reggie Cotton asked about the Texas Department of Transportation's handling of the project.

Fogle claimed that TxDOT has hired five lobbyists, at $10,000 each per month, totaling $50,000 per month in taxpayer money, for the TTC, yet "they are telling us they don't have the money to fix our roads."

"That's illegal," Cotton said of the hired lobbyists.

"Yes, it's illegal," Fogle said. "TxDOT is a state agency. They are supposed to do what they are told by our governor, state Legislature and the representatives."

Commissioners voted unanimously to join the Pineywoods Sub-Regional Planning Commission. In the court's next meeting, commissioners will select a representative of the county as a board member on the commission.

© 2008 Nachodoches Daily Sentinel: www.dailysentinel.com

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